Young people take part in a Seaham beach clean-up

#iwill project cleans up Seaham beach.

Seaham youngsters have spearheaded a huge beach clean-up as part of a new youth-led project.

Teenagers who attend Dawdon Youth and Community Centre are turning their ideas for stronger communities into reality: with support from the #iwill Youth Social Action programme.

The funding programme, managed by County Durham Community Foundation, awarded £9,942 to the Youth Hub to give young people the chance to lead their own initiatives.

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, said: “It’s just so great to see these young people making a difference in their community, and putting their own ideas into practice in such a practical way. Young people have had a very tough time lately but it’s interesting to see how many are bouncing back by thinking of others, thinking about what they can contribute. They’re an example to us all.”

The beach clean-up, in early August, was organised by 16 young people, with a further 18 joining the efforts.

Thirty-six large bags of rubbish were collected with support from the Civic Pride team and Litter Free Durham. Young people from the project have also arranged and taken part in first aid training and become summer mentors for younger children attending the centre’s summer activities.

Lauren Jefferson, 13, has attended the popular centre for years, and took part in all three projects under the #iwill funding.

She said: “It’s always fun coming to the centre. I’m a lot more outgoing than I would have been and much more confident because I’ve joined in.

“I organised a rugby session for the children and even though they didn’t really ‘get it’ they had a lot of fun. We have arranged all sorts for them. A good mentor makes them smile and laugh but gets them to listen. I’ve been coming to the centre since I was six and mentoring since I was 11. It never feels like work.”

Joanne Bowen, youth and play development manager, at the centre, said: “This is a fantastic team of young people who arranged to clean up our beautiful coastline in the wet weather. They did us proud and I look forward to their next clean up mission.”